DreamWorks Animation has named veteran producers Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria as co-presidents of feature animation. Bill Damaschke, who has been chief creative officer of the struggling animation studio, will step down.
Arnold and Soria have been producers of eight DreamWorks films that have collectively grossed more than $3.5 billion as lead producers, respectively, in the How To Train Your Dragon and Madagascar franchises. In their new roles, they will oversee creative development and production for all DreamWorks Animation theatrical releases.
“Mireille and Bonnie are two of the most accomplished and prolific filmmakers working in feature animation today,” said CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “I am confident in their ability to marshal the extensive creative resources available at our studio and lead DreamWorks’s vast ranks of artists and filmmakers as they produce the highest quality entertainment.”
Though Dragon and Madagascar have been successful animated franchises for DWA, the Glendale-based studio has struggled to consistently create winners at the box office over the past three years. Films such as Turbo, Rise of the Guardians and Mr. Peabody & Sherman underperformed and the publicly traded company’s stock has been punished on Wall Street as a result.
Katzenberg has moved the company into related ventures, acquiring the Classic Media library of animated characters and online-video company AwesomenessTV, in efforts to diversify DWA’s narrow corporate configuration. Putting top producers behind some of the studio’s recent winners can be seen as another move to shore up the studio’s prospects with proven hitmakers.
Arnold has spent 12 years with DWA, part of a 31-year career in filmmaking. Her first How To Train Your Dragon received two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe nomination, and with its 2014 sequel has grossed more than $1.1 billion worldwide. HTTYD 2 has been nominated for a 2014 Golden Globe and is the year’s biggest-grossing animated film. Arnold-produced animated projects for other studios include Toy Story, Over the Hedge and Tarzan. She also produced the live-action The Last Station, which was nominated for two Oscars among much else.
Soria also has 31 years of film-making experience, including 15 at DWA. Her three Madagascar films have collectively grossed nearly $1.9 billion worldwide, though this year’s spin-off, Penguins of Madagascar, was considered an underperformer despite grossing $270.6 million worldwide.
Soria also produced the Oscar-nominated DWA film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and has developed and produced a wide array of live-action films and TV projects. She is a former Disney VP of production who oversaw projects such as The Mighty Ducks and its two sequels, Cool Runnings and the live-action version of The Jungle Book. As a producer with Fox Family Pictures, she helped create the live-action Cinderella story Ever After.